Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry (L) meeting with Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour (R) on the sidelines of his participation in the Executive Council meetings of the 30th AU Summit in Addis Ababa on Jan. 26, 2018
CAIRO - 4 February 2018: Egypt will host a quartet meeting with the Egyptian and Sudanese ministers of Foreign Affairs and heads of intelligence bodies of both countries on Thursday to discuss the bilateral relations that saw difference recently, stated Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid in a statement on Sunday.
“The meetings will seek to strengthen the bilateral relations of both countries and to coordinate on some regional issues of mutual concern,” the statement reads.
The meeting will be held upon a call from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi after a closed session he held with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir this month on the sidelines of the 30th African Summit in Addis Ababa, the statement added.
“It has been agreed to establish a quartet consultative mechanism between the ministries of foreign affairs and the two general intelligence bodies in both countries to enhance solidarity and cooperation...and to deal with all issues that relate to the bilateral ties in all fields and to remove any obstacles for such relations,” the statement said.
According to the statement, a meeting will be held first between Egyptian Foreign Ministers Sameh Shoukry and Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour, while another will convene between the acting chief of Egyptian General Intelligence Service (GIS) Abbas Kamel and his Sudanese counterpart National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Then the four officials will have their quartet meeting.
Egypt’s relations with Sudan were recently strained over the disputed border area of Halaib and Shalateen; on December 23, 2017, Sudan filed a complaint to the United Nations Secretariat, protesting a maritime border demarcation deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the deal denotes the territory as Egyptian on the maps.
Halaib and Shalateen, or the Halaib Triangle, is an area of land measuring 20,580 square kilometers, located at the Egyptian-Sudanese border on the Red Sea coast. It is part of the Red Sea governorate and consists of three major towns – Halaib (which became a city in February 2014), Abu Ramad and Shalateen.
The area belongs to Egypt politically and administratively, but has been one of the major sticking points in Egyptian-Sudanese relations since the demarcation of borders between the two countries were carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.
The issue re-emerged after Halaib and Shalateen declared electoral constituency in both Sudan and Egypt in 2014.
On January 13, Russia Today has reported that the Sudanese Ambassador to Cairo Abdel Mahmoud Abdel Halim, who has been withdrawn from Egypt for consultation, told Sudanese reporters that Khartoum “has taken tougher steps against Cairo and new development will take place in the coming few days and will be more violent.”
“We are at the beginning of our diplomatic process, which starts with summoning the ambassador for consultation and then withdrawing the ambassador…and third, dismissing the ambassador of the concerned country. Fourth, boycotting the diplomatic ties and fifth, declaring war,” stated an Egyptian government official.
Three days ago, Ibrahim Mahmoud, the assistant to the Sudanese President, said that his country “faces (potential) military threats” from Egypt and Eritrea after claiming that there have been “military moves from Cairo and Asmara along the Sudanese eastern borders,” BBC reported. However, Eritrea has totally denied any Egyptian military moves, saying such remarks are “groundless.”
In a phone call to Sabahak Masry talk show on MBC channel on Monday, Egyptian Ambassador to Eritrea Yasser Hashem stated that Egypt has no military bases in Eritrea or any other country.
However, after Sisi and Bashir’s meeting, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said that the Sudanese ambassador will return back to Cairo to resume his job soon.
The relations between both countries are strained over the controversial Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Sudanese media claimed that Egypt has sought to exclude Sudan from the tripartite talks with Ethiopia. On January 8, Foreign Minister Shoukry stressed that Egypt did not ask Ethiopia to exclude Sudan from the negotiations.
Egypt has voiced its concern over Ethiopia’s dam construction, as it would affect Egypt’s 55 billion cubic meter share of the Nile water. However, Addis Ababa says the dam is necessary for its development and would not negatively affect the downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan).